On October 18th, more than three dozen sector leaders descended on Parliament Hill to advocate for a better operating environment for charities. Together, we demonstrated the breadth and scope of our sector, built new relationships, and advanced positions on key issues like grant and contribution reform, organizations’ data needs, and legal and regulatory reform.
Everybody met the day before at a training session to break the ice, discuss our ‘asks’, and exchange tips for strategy. The next morning, everyone was looking sharp, the coffee was flowing, and teams were assembled for the day. The teams themselves showed the diversity of the sector – with a mixture of professional staff and volunteer board members, all from different types of organizations.
The last election saw a large turnover in members of Parliament, and the new government has an ambitious agenda that touches on a range of issues of interest to charities and nonprofits, so the day also gave us an excellent opportunity to build new relationships on both sides of the House and Senate.
Participants were equipped with ask documents to prompt discussion on several major policy areas:
- Commit to a fully-resourced process to explore a new legal and regulatory framework for charities and non-profits
- Invest in a study of the sector to determine its size, scope and economic impact, as the current data is a decade old
- Apply reforms of grants and contributions that were recently announced by the Department of Canadian Heritage across all Departments
- Explore ways to catalyze the social finance market.
These ‘asks’ were set within the context of the coming social deficit that we face as a country, and the strains that this will place on our sector and the work that we do. The case for this was made just the day before, with the launch of Chief Economist Brian Emmett’s discussion paper: “Charities, Sustainable Funding and Smart Growth”.
Throughout the day, groups of sector leaders gathered at our “base camp” at the Public Policy Forum, giving them a chance to share experiences and stories over sandwiches and even more coffee (brought to us by one of our favourite social enterprises - Krackers Katering!). Some of these leaders brought with them years of their own advocacy experience, for others it was new. What all participants shared was their passion to show Parliamentarians the role the sector plays in communities all across Canada.
During meetings many sector leaders shared stories with Parliamentarians about how their day-to-day operations are impacted by federal regulation and policy. Individual relationships and connections were made, but more importantly, the sector’s presence as a whole was felt; its needs, realities, and values were impressed upon our country’s legislators.
The follow up from this day will be an enormous task
MPs and Senators were very engaged, asking for a variety of follow-up information and proposing ways to bring sector issues more to the forefront of Parliament. We’ll roll up our sleeves to keep the momentum going, and looking for ways to further involve you in our ongoing public policy work, especially through our policy network and the working groups that are already helping us to generate new ideas and recommendations. This is so much more than a Day on the Hill – it’s about the improved communications between our political institutions and sector, and the advocacy wins that will flow and develop from these meetings in the coming months and year.
This was our second Hill Day and we doubled the number of participating organizations and Parliamentarians we met with. We’re going to make this an annual event, and we want it to be bigger and better every year – so stay tuned for details of Hill Day 3. If you think you might want to participate, circle October 17, 2017 on your calendar.
About the Author
Bernadette Johnson is our Manager of Public Policy. She has an MA in Conflict Studies and a Master’s in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership. She’s worked in the sector in Rwanda, here as an MP staffer, as a research consultant for Indigenous Affairs, and as a research coordinator for Canada’s TRC. Current projects include a hobby social enterprise and research on impact investing.